Sciatica is pain in the leg caused by inflammation of the sciatic nerve. In this condition, the pain starts in the lower back and can extend all the way down to the knee. The sciatic nerve, which is the largest nerve in the body, starts from the nerve roots in the spinal cord in the lower back and goes through the buttocks all the way down the leg.
What Causes Sciatica?
This condition is always caused by irritation or inflammation of the sciatic nerve, and that has multiple causes. The most common cause is a pinched or compressed nerve caused by a herniated or ruptured disc that is putting pressure on it.
In spinal stenosis, the spinal canal in the lower back gradually narrows and thus reduces the space for the spinal cord and associated nerves. Eventually, those nerves get compressed. Spinal stenosis can be caused by bulging discs, thickened tissues, bone spurs or a combination thereof.
Piriformis syndrome occurs when the piriformis muscle, a small muscle in the buttocks, spasms or becomes abnormally tight. The muscle tightness or spasms can irritate the sciatic nerve.
Spondylolisthesis is a condition in which one of the vertebrae slips out of alignment and thus puts pressure on neighboring nerves. While there are several types of spondylolisthesis, the most common type is degenerative spondylolisthesis, which is usually linked to the aging process. As people get older, their discs become drier and less spongy and are less able to withstand the movement of the vertebrae.
Other causes of sciatica include injury or infections involving the lower spine. Some women develop the condition during pregnancy.
Risk Factors of Sciatica
Injury to the lower back can increase the chances of developing sciatica. People with degenerative arthritis or lumbar disc disease are prone to developing sciatica. Age also increases the chances of developing the condition. The most common causes of sciatica, like herniated discs, are related to the aging process.
Obesity is another risk factor, for excess weight puts more pressure on the spine. Smoking cigarettes can cause the discs to degenerate and therefore increases the chances of a patient developing the condition. Diabetes increases a patient’s chances of developing nerve damage in general. People with diabetes are therefore prone to sciatica.
Some occupations are also risk factors. Occupations that require a person to sit for hours at a time increase the risk of the condition. Some researchers suspect that jobs that require people to carry heavy loads or twist their back a lot can increase the risk of sciatica.
What are the Symptoms?
The main symptom of sciatica is pain that extends from the lower back to down the back of the leg. The severity of the pain can vary from a mild ache to excruciating pain. Some patients develop a burning sensation, and others feel like they’ve had an electric shock. Some patients also develop numbness, weakness or tingling in the affected area, while others might have tingling in one area and numbness in another.
Sneezing, coughing and sitting for a long time can make the symptoms worse. In most cases, the condition only affects one side of the body.
At the Chiropractic Health Center in Greenville, SC, our experienced chiropractor can come up with a treatment plan that is tailored for you. With help from our team of experts, you may finally find relief from your sciatica symptoms. Contact us today to schedule your appointment to learn more!